To Kill A Mockingbird at 50

I saw the film first, when it came out in 1962 (it was my first "adult" movie), but I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird when in junior high school and I have never forgotten it.
Few novels have achieved both the mass popularity and the literary cachet of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book was originally published in 1960 by J. B. Lippincott and Company (now part of HarperCollins), won a Pulitzer Prize and has not been out of print since. It has sold nearly one million copies a year and in the past five years has been the second-best-selling backlist title in the country, beaten out only by the novel “The Kite Runner.”

Interest in the book intensified after the 2005 film “Capote,” in which Catherine Keener played Ms. Lee, and grew even stronger the next year, when Sandra Bullock played her in “Infamous.”

Sales of the book are especially robust in the South, including Kentucky, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Florida, and in the Midwest, particularly Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
I've read it many, many times, both for teaching it to my Grade 8 English classes and just for the sheer pleasure of the simplicity and depth of the storytelling. I marvel at its gentle tone even as it depicts the horrors and hatred that run through it; the genteel and loving portrayal of desperate people in a small town in Alabama in the 1930's. The film version, masterfully done in black and white, has forever fixed Atticus Finch (who will forever be Gregory Peck) as a hero of both the law and humanity. But it is the children -- Scout, Jem, and Dill (said to be modeled on Ms. Lee's childhood friend, Truman Capote) -- who give the story its wisdom as they observe the mysteries of adulthood and the peculiar rituals of both worlds.

I think I'll read it again.


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